Just over one month ago, a mass shooting left 17 dead at a Florida high school. Now, students across the nation demand a response to Capitol Hill’s inaction.
The Blade reported that Toledo-area high schoolers participated in the nationwide event on March 14, displaying signs such as the one Caitlin Collins championed: “Sorry For the Inconvenience, We’re Trying to Change the World.”
A counter-movement to this walkout recently emerged on social media calling for students to “walk up,” not “walk out.”
Ryan Petty, the father of a student killed in last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, proposed his alternative on Twitter.
“Instead of walking out of school on March 14, encourage students to walk up – walk up to the kid who sits alone at lunch and invite him to sit with your group; walk up to the kid who sits quietly in the corner of the room and sit next to her… Build on that foundation instead of casting stones. I challenge students to find 14 students and 3 adults to walk up to and say something nice in honor of those who died in FL on the 14 of March. But you can start practicing now! #walkupnotout.”
At the bottom of the flyer, “out” in “National School Walkout” is crossed out and replaced with “up.”
He prefaced this flyer in a tweet: “The #March4OurLives supporters will accomplish only two things. 1. They’ll exercise their 1st Amendment right. 2. They’ll get a little exercise. If you really want to stop the next school shooter #walkupnotout.”
Although Petty’s message encourages inclusion and promotes an anti-bullying campaign, it delegitimizes students’ voices such as Collins’ by promoting a message of kindness toward the bullied and discouraging protest.
While I agree with Petty’s sentiment that inclusion is an answer, I believe students such as those who kickstarted the #NeverAgain movement and those who feel strongly about gun reform should never be discouraged from speaking out.
When asked by @Westdal_Hayward on Twitter, “How about both? #walkupandout,” Petty replied, “Sure, why not. Just remember one will have a lasting impact.”
When Petty encourages inclusion, he tells teenagers they are fighting a losing battle and protesting will not impact the conversation, but he only needs to look at history to realize these movements are not in vain.
From the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Equal Rights Amendment, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, these movements set lasting precedents.
Petty’s message also insinuates that the political statements, legislation and lobbying should remain in the hands of the adults while keeping the inexperienced children in the classrooms.
Because these “children” are under 18 years of age and cannot vote, the only way high schoolers can politically express themselves is via lobbying, protest and a large social media presence.
#Walkupnotout is troublesome because it portrays the protestors as disturbers of the peace who don’t care about the bullied or even as those who do the bullying.
Petty should not present students with such a dichotomy – express yourself or be kind – because the two are not and never should be mutually exclusive.
Just because Collins protests doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about inclusion, and because someone is inclusive doesn’t mean he/she can’t project his/her voice.
#March4OurLives, #Walkupnotout and #NeverAgain are all on the same side, but Petty’s message polarizes the movement and makes it harder to accomplish anyone’s goals.
Instead of telling students they shouldn’t protest, Petty and everyone involved with the movement should promote #walkupandout because students need to be inclusive.
However, the United States, politicians and Petty must include everyone under the age of 18 in this conversation, and we can only do this by listening to everyone and giving students the ability to project their voices.